By: John Goglia Forbes Contributor
I write about the airline industry and aviation safety.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Logistics & Transportation 6/29/2015 @ 10:01PM
The just-released aircraft accident report on the tragic death of a six-month old baby in a runway overrun crash just days before Christmas 2012 has spurred the Transportation Safety Board of Canada – the equivalent of the US’s NTSB – to call for mandatory age and size appropriate child restraint systems for infants and young children travelling on commercial airliners to “provide an equivalent level of safety compared to adults.” The NTSB has called for similar action in the US for many years, so far unsuccessfully.
The accident that led to the Canadian safety recommendation was Perimeter Aviation Flight 993, a Fairchild Metro twin engine turboprop, that crashed in a remote region of Canada on December 22, 2012. According to the Canadian investigation, the aircraft “came in too high, too steep and too fast,” hitting the ground 525 feet past the end of the runway after an unsuccessful attempt to abort the landing. Runway overruns are among the most frequent types of aircraft accidents worldwide and are frequently survivable. In this accident, the two crewmembers and six adult passengers, all properly restrained by seatbelts, survived with injuries that ranged from minor to serious. The one lap child died from multiple trauma when he was ejected from his mother’s arms.
According to Kathy Fox , Chair of the Canadian accident board, “this accident saw an infant ripped from his mother’s arms and killed in the subsequent impact, even though everyone else survived.” In a statement, Ms. Fox said: “every day, families board commercial aircraft with babies and young children, and the majority trust that, if something goes wrong, a parent’s arms can restrain their child safely. In the case of severe turbulence, a sudden deceleration, or a crash such as this one, research has proven that adults are not strong enough to adequately restrain a lap-held infant just by holding on to them. And just like in cars, adult lap belts are not suitable to restrain young children.”
In addition to recommending mandatory child safety restraints, the Canadian Board also recommended that Transport Canada – the equivalent of the US FAA – “require commercial air carriers to collect data, and report on a routine basis, the number of infants and young children travelling. Currently, these statistics are not available, and better data is required to conduct research, assess risks, and outline emerging trends related to the carriage of infants and children.”
According to Ms. Fox, “this investigation identified issues associated with pre-flight planning, crew communication and unstable approaches—but what stands out most was the tragic fate of the baby on this aircraft. We think infants and children deserve an equivalent level of safety as adults on board aircraft, and that is why we are calling on Transport Canada and the aviation industry to take action. It’s time to do right by our children.”
As a long-time advocate for banning the practice of lap children on airplanes, I applaud Ms. Fox and second her statement that it’s time to do right by our children.